Bag organizing tips and tricks for messy handbag hoarders

Everything you need to know about bag organizing—from tips for the big clear out to the best inserts to buy now

items falling out of handbag to demonstrate bag organizing
(Image credit: Getty)

The best bag organizing intentions—you know, the ones that are acquired at the same time as a brand-new handbag or purse—can quickly deteriorate. If finding your keys in your bag has begun to feel more akin to searching for a needle in a haystack (one made from old snack wrappers, tangled receipts, and lipsticks) then it’s time for a clear-out, followed by some organization.

What does that entail? It's pretty simple, as there are really only two parts to bag organizing: the organization you do to ensure that only things you need are in your bag, and then keeping those things in their rightful place. The latter relies on effectively using your bag's built-in compartments—or, if you don't have those, a bag organizing insert—to create some kind of order. 

The miniature saviours that are organizing inserts are easy to find online, with many specially tailored to seamlessly slot inside the most popular designer bags—primarily to prevent marks or spillages on those special linings. Some bags already come with built-in compartments (typically more practical bags like backpacks for working women), ready and waiting to be utilized; we'd recommend using external pockets for things you want to find quickly, and internal, zipped compartments for valuables, such as your phone, wallet or keys. 

According to Sophie Liard, the tidy influencer behind the Instagram page The Folding Lady, the key to continued bag organization is maintenance. “It’s inevitable that [a bag] gets filled with bits and pieces," she says. "But a regular clear-out will not let that pile-up.”

How to organize a purse or handbag

There are two easy steps to good bag organisation: 

Step 1: the clear out

When it’s time for the big clear-out, set aside half an hour and ensure you have space to tip everything out. “Empty your bag completely onto a clear surface and start separating into 3 piles,” advises Sophie. They are: 

  • Keep in handbag
  • Keep in house
  • Throw in the bin

Be careful, because there will be small things in there that you didn't notice, so you don't rush everything into the throw-away pile". 

The real trick is assessing what goes into the 'keep in handbag pile'. "I try to keep just bare essentials like my keys, wallet, and makeup bag in mine," says Sophie, "but the list of bag necessities will be personal to the individual.” Making sure you have a clean reusable face mask is a must under current restrictions.

Additionally, the kind of bag you use on a daily basis will have a big impact on how easy it is to keep the mess at bay. By their very nature, compact crossbody bags and clutches are model students for bag organizing, as their smaller size means there’s no space for clutter. Roomy tote bags and weekend bags are the worst culprits; not only to they offer plenty of space for all your essential items, but they also seem to welcome lots of non-essential ones too.

Step 2: use an bag insert

Once you have successfully streamlined your belongings, the next step is to pack them into a handy bag organizer. 

The best ones have handy sections for everyday essentials like wallets, phones, cosmetics and pens. Some also have handy clips for keys too.

We've selected a few of our favourites, to help you get organized that little bit faster.

Best bag organizers as chosen by our fashion editors

Ready to embrace bag organizing? These clever inserts will help to keep your everyday, on-the-go essentials in order. 

MylioraCo Waterproof Sturdy Bag Organiser

(Image credit: MylioraCo/Etsy)

MylioraCo Waterproof Sturdy Bag Organiser

Best for: wide bags 

Not only does this bag insert offer multiple compartments to keep everything suitably tidy, but it also protects the inside of your bag from potential spills and stains too. A must-buy for suede or other easily marked linings.

Aspinal of London Large Essential Flat Pouch

(Image credit: Aspinal of London)

Aspinal of London Large Essential Flat Pouch

Best for: any bag bigger than a clutch

A luxe way to keep the contents of a tote, rucksack or satchel under control is with the addition of a smaller bag inside. Choose a bright colour, such as this hot orange shade, to find your valuables with ease. 

Ropch Felt Insert Bag Organizer

(Image credit: Ropch)

Ropch Felt Insert Bag Organizer

Best for: tote bags

We love that this bag insert stands up on its own, making it easy to pop things in as you get ready at your dressing table. A brilliant buy for make-up lovers. 

Periea Premium Structured Handbag Organizer

(Image credit: Periea/Amazon)

Periea Premium Structured Handbag Organizer

Best for: weekend bags 

The most budget-friendly option in our edit, consider this for entry-level bag organizing. Perfect for a weekend away, you can use it with or without the structured sides, depending on the size and shape of your bag. The plastic pockets mean you can store toiletries without fear of leaks too. 

Samorga Bag Organizer for Gucci Ophidia Small Tote

(Image credit: Samorga)

Samorga Bag Organizer

Best for: designer bags

Worried about getting your new designer bag messy? Worry no more. While they might not look super fancy, Samorga's fabric inserts are designed specifically to fit coveted creations from almost every high-end label you could dream of, including the fanciest and best Louis Vuitton bags

Handbag Angels Conversion Kit for Mulberry Small Willow Clutch

(Image credit: Handbag Angels)

Handbag Angels Conversion Kit

Best for: clutch bags 

So much more than your average bag organizer, the eyelets and chain on this design allow you to transform a clutch bag into a cross-body style. Top marks for ingenuity. 

Jess Beech

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.